Saturday, April 6, 2013

Kraft Nabisco Championship Friday: Inbee Park's 67 Gets Her the Yellow Jersey

Inbee Park fired the low round of the week, a 6-birdie 67, yesterday at Mission Hills to take the lead at the halfway point of the LPGA's 1st major of 2013, the Kraft Nabisco Championship.  At -7 through 36 holes, Park leads Lizette Salas by 1 shot, Caroline Hedwall and Guilia Sergas by 2, and Hee Young Park, Pornanong Phatlum, and Jodi Ewart Shadoff by 3.  Salas and Hedwall had great chances to match or surpass Park's feat, but late bogeys derailed their efforts and they had to settle for 5-birdie 68s.  The only other players to come close to 67 or better were Paula Creamer and Ai Miyazato, whose mistakes came earlier in their rounds but who bounced back for a 6-birdie and a 5-birdie 68, respectively, to move to T12 at -2, 1 shot behind Se Ri Pak, Ji-Yai Shin, Anna Nordqvist, and Haeji Kang.  The only other players to break 70 yesterday were Sergas, Phatlum, Pak, Kang, Julieta Granada (who moved up 48 spots but is still +2 for the week), and amateur Lindy Duncan, who bounced back from an opening 81 with a 69 that left her a mere shot from making the cut.

And yet, Mission Hills was still showing its teeth on Friday.  Just look at Na Yeon Choi and Suzann Pettersen, who seemingly could do no wrong Thursday:  they barely could do anything right yesterday, as Pettersen need a walkoff birdie (her only one of the day) to salvage a 75 and Choi offset her 3 birdies with 4 bogeys and a double (on the par-4 6th) to join her playing partner at -1, 6 shots off the lead, and tied with Jane Park, Jacqui Concolino, and Caroline Masson, who also moved backwards with 73s.  Even those who joined Miyazato and Creamer at -2 have plenty of mightabeens to get over:  Jessica Korda carded her 3rd double of the week to drop to +2 and needed a furious comeback on the back--a bogey-free 32--to fight back into contention; Amy Yang also had to bounce back from a birdieless 3-bogeys-in-10-holes start to fight back on the back; Cristie Kerr got it to -4 with 5 holes left to play and finished par-bogey-bogey-bogey-birdie; Michelle Wie and Hee Kyung Seo each scattered 6 birdies and 4 bogeys throughout their rounds.  Further down the leaderboard, Angela Stanford suffered a walkoff double on 18 to fall back to E for the week, Camilla Hedberg fell back to earth after getting to -4 late in her round when she doubled the 6th and 7th holes back-to-back, and Catriona Matthew bogeyed 3 holes in a row on the front (her back) right after fighting her way to -2.  Even the world #1 struggled, twice fighting back to -1 for the tournament and twice falling back.  Sure, you can't count Stacy Lewis out when she has only 7 shots to make up over 36 holes, but she's going to need to get--and stay--hot to have a chance.  Yes, it's likely that a good number of the 27 golfers ahead of her will struggle over the weekend--but all of them?  No way.

At least they'll all get a chance to keep fighting on the weekend.  Defending champion Sun Young Yoo won't, nor will former champion Brittany Lincicome.  But at least they can say they just played awful.  For Louise Friberg to back up a 71 with an 80 isn't that big a deal, either, as she only played because it was her last year being exempt.  But for Brittany Lang to miss the cut after recovering from an 80 with a 71 has to hurt a lot more.  And for all the golfers who like Duncan missed it by a shot--from Azahara Munoz and Chie Arimura to Stacy Prammanasudh and Seon Hwa Lee to Danielle Kang, Jennifer Song, Sydnee Michaels, Austin Ernst, Jennie Lee, and Veronica Felibert--well, that's got to be no fun at all.  At least their suffering allowed those at +5 to sneak into the weekend--Shanshan Feng and Mo Martin earned it with 71s, but the rest have to consider themselves very lucky--not that that's going to be any consolation to those at +6.

Saturday play has alreayd started, so I'll stop here.  Let's see who can play the best over the last 36 holes!

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